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How do I learn Chinese well?

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#1 sean

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 09:57 AM

Bumped into this post on Quora the other day, thought I'd share:

 

Disclaimer: I hope this doesn't look like shameless bragging, but I think my Chinese is pretty decent. It is certainly not as good as other Chinese-speaking Westerners like John Pasden, but I think it's better than almost all other Chinese learners I met. I have been told this sentence on several occasions: "If we were talking on the phone and I couldn't see you, I'd mistake you for a native Chinese".

 
I can also read and handwrite quite a bit of Mandarin.
 
I still have much to learn, but at least I feel quite comfortable with the language and use it on a daily basis, and thus I feel qualified to answer this question.
 
 
Sean

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#2 soaring crane

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 12:01 PM

That's very good info, thanks. How did Mark Zuckerberg do it?


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#3 sean

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Posted 22 February 2015 - 07:13 PM

Married to a Chinese woman + access to world-class Mandarin teachers?

 

Sean


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#4 dust

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Posted 23 February 2015 - 11:54 AM

"Do as many pronunciation drills as you can, as early as you can."

 

Yes, this is one major thing. The same advice I gave Saoshun here. I've known many laowai who didn't practice tones and/or pronunciation from the start and, years later, still have problems (in some situations) being understood. Zuckerburg seems like an example of that.. his pronunciation and tones are horrible (I know he's been busy with other things, though ^_^).

 

My other advice is always going to be: learn the characters, from the ground up.

The pronunciation, meaning, and physical appearance of each character are all deeply connected. If you can learn the writing system from the ground up -- strokes, radicals, character history, etc -- at the same time as learning to speak, your understanding of the language as a whole will be much stronger than someone who just picks up spoken Chinese, or someone who just learns to read text.


Edited by dustybeijing, 23 February 2015 - 11:55 AM.

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I'm just trying to be somebody I can talk to in the morning with a smile


#5 dawei

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Posted 25 February 2015 - 03:42 PM

There is more than one side to all of this...

 

- personal motivation and drive

- ability to learn it... tones, etc

- access to learning, and quality of learning

 

I know someone completely fluent in chinese and is a lawyer... yet his chinese in-laws chide him over his pronunciation  :huh:

 

To some natives... you're always a laowai   ;)

 

My [chinese] wife says the key is to drill the tones... repeat in military manner the four tones of a word... rattle them off till you drop in the rain puddle below you and you reverently bow to her and thank her for another word to start with  :D

 

I can hear in my sleep the speed with which she rattles off a four tone word... and another... and another.   :wub:

 

Now... looking back at all this torture kindness I've had over the years... I would say without some form of immersion (and jiaozi to warm your mouth movements of saying four tone words over and over)... it is going to be difficult to learn.

 

I've got several books which I think are really great... but any trip to china evokes more learning than months of reading.


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#6 Bearded Dragon

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Posted 01 March 2015 - 06:21 PM

I've got several books which I think are really great... but any trip to china evokes more learning than months of reading.

 

And any trip to China is dancing with death in that everyone from different provinces use the tones differently, to the point that you want to give up learning them altogether. haha. I stopped learning Chinese after I went to China.


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#7 dust

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Posted 08 March 2015 - 01:19 PM

And any trip to China is dancing with death in that everyone from different provinces use the tones differently, to the point that you want to give up learning them altogether. haha. I stopped learning Chinese after I went to China.

 

Yeah..travelling even just from Hebei to a surrounding province, one can come to a sudden realisation that their well-pronounced Putonghua and excellent vocabulary is useless against certain regional dialects...

 

A good friend of mine is from Liaoning province, where they replace the 1st tone with the 2nd. Really confusing sometimes.

 

 

 

To some natives... you're always a laowai   ;)

 

Yes.. can't remember the number of times a Chinese person has ignored me, fluent but white, in favour of trying to communicate with a friend of mine who looks Chinese but is in fact American and can't say more than "Hello" and "Beer please"


I'm just trying to be somebody I can talk to in the morning with a smile


#8 shanlung

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 08:48 AM

"Do as many pronunciation drills as you can, as early as you can."

 

Yes, this is one major thing. The same advice I gave Saoshun here. I've known many laowai who didn't practice tones and/or pronunciation from the start and, years later, still have problems (in some situations) being understood. Zuckerburg seems like an example of that.. his pronunciation and tones are horrible (I know he's been busy with other things, though ^_^).

 

My other advice is always going to be: learn the characters, from the ground up.

The pronunciation, meaning, and physical appearance of each character are all deeply connected. If you can learn the writing system from the ground up -- strokes, radicals, character history, etc -- at the same time as learning to speak, your understanding of the language as a whole will be much stronger than someone who just picks up spoken Chinese, or someone who just learns to read text.

 

 

As said, Chinese must be learned from characters , from ground up.

I go one step further, from the components within the Chinese characters and which comprise the heart of the Chinese characters.

 

I cannot imagine how good Chinese can ever be learned in Mainland China from the bastardised JianTiJi. Chinese with the heart ripped out of Chinese with components all gone or replaced with  X and X and X.

 

I found to my sorrow, my Chinese female undergrad guide and Chinese tutor unable to comprehend the words on old granite stele which I could partially read from the components and the Japanese tourists next to me could read but she could not read.

 

I cannot imagine lauwai in China learning to read chinese when all they got is a bastardised pidgin kind of Chinese that they then get so proud about, not knowing they not even scratching the surface of Chinese.

They will be like my female chinese undergrad guide and friend humming and hooing over Chinese words on old granite steles and written on side of temple walls and in any books printed in China other than under Mao Tze Tung.

 

To get into a language, that language must be a living language used by the people that you live with.

The FanTiJi, the complete full Chinese can only be found in Taiwan and in Hongkong.

 

Or you can go learn the bastardised JianTiJi in Beijing and Mainland China.

You might as well learn Pidgin English in New Guinea and pride yourself in fluet pidgin English.

 

Idiotic Taoist 


Edited by shanlung, 24 April 2015 - 08:52 AM.

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#9 dust

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 09:03 AM

Yeah. It's not easy. After living in Beijing, with 简体, for some years, I am quite behind in my 繁体. I sometimes wish I had gone to Taiwan first.

 

But I know many mainlanders who can read 繁体 perfectly well...


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#10 shanlung

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 09:36 AM

Yeah. It's not easy. After living in Beijing, with 简体, for some years, I am quite behind in my 繁体. I sometimes wish I had gone to Taiwan first.

 

But I know many mainlanders who can read 繁体 perfectly well...

 

I believe that for anyone of the mainlanders who can read the FangTiJi well, at least 8 will not be able to read the Fantiji al all.  Those people can always rely on Japanese tourist to read the Chinese words on the old Chinese granite stele or written on walls of Temples for them.

 

It fascinate me no end that even though Jiantiji were banned in China and companies that uses Jiantiji in their advertisement were fined, major Chinese companies , such as Bank of China (Zhongquo Yin Hang) , paid the fine and continued to use the original kind of Chinese on the front of the banks.  That was 20 years ago when I was working and living in Guangzhou.  Perhaps that changed now and companies not fined any more for using FangTiJi in their letterheads and shop fronts.

 

Can Chinese calligraphy be meaningful written in Jiantiji?  and stylised X  & X  & X for the components of the Chinese words?

 

Will a good reknowned Chinese calligrapher be paid enough money to do stylised X & X & X in those JianTiJi with the heart ripped out of the Chinese words?  If that is the case, that  chinese calligrapher is no goddamn calligrapher, just a chinese word hack greedy for money and more money and got no soul but a bank account.

 

 

 

Taoistic Idiot.


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#11 dust

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 10:57 AM

I am not entirely sure, but calligraphers are often traditionalists, and I think that mainland calligraphers stick to the same rules they have used for many centuries -- they have not designed new ways of writing characters

 

If you go to http://image.baidu.com and search, these are some of the top results for searching kaishu, xingshu, caoshu:

 

 

楷書 kaishu

 

u=653560008,570407168&fm=21&gp=0.jpg

 

They still use the traditional characters for “regular script" calligraphy

 

 

 

行書 xingshu

 

P20077139492741625.jpg

 

Traditional again, as the rules are still the same as they were before Mao came along

 


草書 caoshu

 

The cursive script was already based on simplification of characters (to the point that they are often completely unrecognizable)

 

So actually, as far as I know, many 简体字 jiantizi were based on 草書 caoshu forms

 

I hope that makes you feel a little better about it. Calligraphy in the mainland is alive and well, I believe


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#12 rainbowvein

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Posted 08 October 2015 - 07:17 AM

 

How's your Chinese studies? :)

 

An American's humorous perspective about Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard.



#13 giovanni

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Posted 28 November 2015 - 09:35 AM

to be honest, the best way to learn it is that you really want to learn. maybe it sounds stupid, but its true.

it is so hard, so if you really don't want it to know, do not even start.



#14 shanlung

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Posted 28 November 2015 - 10:27 PM

to be honest, the best way to learn it is that you really want to learn. maybe it sounds stupid, but its true.

it is so hard, so if you really don't want it to know, do not even start.

 

 

It is clear that you are using handfuls if not armfuls of wet coarse grit and sand and not even come anywhere to cumming as yet.

 

Idiotic Taoist


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#15 giovanni

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Posted 29 November 2015 - 04:08 AM

It is clear that you are using handfuls if not armfuls of wet coarse grit and sand and not even come anywhere to cumming as yet.

 

Idiotic Taoist

yeah? you think?



#16 shanlung

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Posted 29 November 2015 - 05:42 AM

yeah? you think?

 

 

To each their form of enjoyment!


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